I was expecting the worst after reading all the reviews but we had a fantastic cruise. The girls are 17 and 10 and they too had a fabulous time. We didnt get into the onboard activities much - we are fairly quiet and we dont drink very much or dance and gamble at all - we took plenty of books to read and we were always able to find a quiet spot either on our balcony or in one of the many lounges around. WE went to the theatre and the shows were stunning.
WE had no problems with the food. A massive buffet for breakfast and lunch with plenty of hot and cold choices, alternatively you could use the dining room and choose off a limited menu. We used the buffet which was very busy, at the start of the dining session it was crowded but as time went on (half hour in or so) the waiters opened up the back section and we aimed for that - much more relaxed and quieter. Dinner was great - fantastic service, the 10 year old ordered for herself and sometimes chose 3 main courses one from the kids menu and two from the adults menu and her choices were served exactly as she ordered - even if she ordered "fries" that were not on the menu. I was very impressed with the food choices - we only ate 3 or 4 of the seven courses offered and there was plently of choice for each course.
Some Italians are a little hard to take but certainly not all. The queue jumping and pushing in happened a lot but after my 10 year old was standing in a queue with her empty plate for over half an hour and not progressing forward we decided on the "if you cant beat them join them approach". I must say I was slightly peeved by the end of the week. They also smoke a lot but the ship had lots of no smoking areas and we didnt go to the bars and casino where you are allowed to smoke.
WE used the internet which was the equivalent of $30AUS per hour which we thought was outrageous. The staff were always friendly, helpful and courteous. We sometimes had little mistakes because not all of them speak English but we expected that and it didnt bother us.
My youngest used the kids club for the first couple of days - she was the only english speaker there and the other kids were much younger than her. When she hooked up with a couple of English speaking Danes at dinner she was off and we hardly ever saw her. We got her to check in by telephone to the cabin and we let her know when she had to be back to get ready for dinner etc. WE had bought her a watch and made sure she used it so we didnt have to go chasing around the ship for her. She was independent and happy.
The ports were fantastic but I felt that the ship excursions were too expensive. We opted for our own excursions booked on-line before we left and they worked out great. We did the same stuff as the ships excursions for a fraction of the price and with private tours just for the four of us instead of going on a crowded bus with a crowd of people.
Getting on and off the ship was easy - never any delays.
Our first port of call was Bari which was on Sunday. Not a very exciting port but worth a walk around the town and a visit to the fort and cathedral. There was a tourist person inside the terminal building handing out free maps and giving directions on what order to see things. We followed her directions and had a leisurely walk around for about 4 hours.
After leaving the ship there were tour guides inside the port gates offering tours for 20 Euro each and a little train type vehicle. Out side the port gates these same tours were 10 Euro. Bari is easy enough to do by foot. Just turn right outside the port gate and follow your map to the fort, then into the old town area to do the cathedral and church.
The same tour by ship excursion was $40 Euro each.